The Coronation Street actress Anne Kirkbride, who played Deirdre Barlow, has passed away at the age of 60.
Deirdre was a household name having spent spent 44 years on the ITV soap.
A statement on the ITV website this evening confirmed the news
"It is with great sadness that David Beckett has confirmed tonight that his beloved wife and Coronation Street actress Anne Kirkbride has passed away peacefully in a Manchester hospital after a short illness."
David and the programme's cast and crew are "heartbroken and deeply saddened" at the loss of Anne who has been a Coronation Street icon for 44 years.
"There are no words to describe the sense of grief we feel at Anne's passing," said Executive Producer Kieran Roberts. "We know only too acutely how much Anne meant to the millions of people who watched her create the legendary character of Deirdre Barlow.
"She will be greatly missed by the Coronation Street team who share happy memories of working with her. We feel blessed and honoured to have known her. Our thoughts are with David and their family."
Samia Ghadie, who plays Maria in Coronation Street, was among the first to pay tribute
#RIP to a wonderful unforgettable lady.. Anne Kirkbride . We will miss you so very much x— Samia Longchambon (@realsamia) January 19, 2015
ITV Director of Television Peter Fincham said
"Anne has been a truly loyal servant to Coronation Street since joining the programme in the early 1970s. She created a unique and unforgettable character in Deirdre Barlow and she'll be greatly missed on and off screen.
"Our sincerest condolences to Anne's husband David and her family at this very sad time."
Coronation Street’s creator Tony Warren captured the feelings of all who knew Anne:
“Anne was very easy to love. Her talent over the years made a massive contribution to Coronation Street.”
William Roache who played Anne’s onscreen husband Ken Barlow said:
“I feel Anne’s loss so personally having worked closely with her for over 40 years. She was such a loving and vibrant person. You always knew she was there because her laugh was never far away.
"She was an impeccable performer with superb comedy timing and an immense gift for really heightened drama. We had some rows over the years as Ken and Deirdre and it was wonderful to play those scenes opposite her. Coronation Street has lost one of its iconic characters and Anne will be greatly missed.”
Anne is survived by her husband, David, her brother John, and his family.
David has appealed to the media to respect his privacy and that of Anne’s family at this very sad and distressing time.
History of programme
Coronation Street was launched in 1960 and is the longest running in the UK, attracting 26.6 million viewers at its peak in 1987. It's also popular in Ireland where it now airs on UTV
File photo dated 23/05/83 of Coronation Street actors William Roache (left), who played Ken Barlow and Johnny Briggs who played Mike Baldwin with Anne Kirkbride, who played Deirdre Barlow. Photo PA Wire
Anne passed away this evening (19 January) aged 60.